For the past seven years, the annual Mudd Sisters’ Great Steamboat Race Party has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association. This year, the charitable soiree takes on a larger meaning for the namesake family.
That’s because one month ago, on March 27, Trudy Mudd, the mother of the Mudd Sisters (and their two Mudd brothers), died after 23 long years of living with Alzheimer’s.
“It was time,” says Debbie Mudd Tuggle, one of the Mudd Sisters. She explains that her mother hadn’t spoken in more than a decade and was periodically bedridden. “Some people have this idea that Alzheimer’s is kind of funny, just old people forgetting things, but there’s nothing funny about it. It got really ugly sometimes.”
That’s why, in 2006, the Mudd Sisters took a second look at the annual party, which was being held primarily for sister Leslie’s hair and makeup clientele. They decided to use the event to raise money for local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, which supports treatment and cure research into the disease, which is believed to impact 97,000 Kentuckians and 130,000 Indiana residents.
“We realized that our mother had never been able to attend the party,” explains Debbie. “We thought this would be a good opportunity.”
Since then, they’ve raised more than $80,000 for the non-profit and managed to keep the party upbeat. This year’s party is scheduled for Wednesday, May 2 from 5 to 11 p.m., less than two months after Trudy’s death. However, the sister’s assure won’t let a somber tone will overshadow it. It’s all about entertainment and celebration, because that’s what Trudy loved.
“She was such a warm person,” Debbie remembers. “She was always having dinner parties. My parents were fortunate enough to have a swimming pool, and once my mother decorated it to look like a tropical oasis. My dad used a swing set and attached a motor to it and cooked a whole pig in the yard. It was a real luau. We were the talk of the neighborhood.”
Without a doubt, Debbie says her mother would love the Mudd Sister’s party, adding, “If it hosts people we care about, mother would love it.”
At only $30 to $40 per person, the annual event is considerably cheaper than many fundraisers held around Derby. Debbie says the sisters didn’t want to out-price their friends and extended family. As a result, the party draws a diverse crowd of ages, from young people to old people who think they’re young, who partake in heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and a prime viewing spot for the Great Steamboat Race.
“We’ll get blue jeans to full-on gowns,” says Debbie of party attire. “There’ll be shorts to going-to-Churchill-Downs-on-Derby-Day attire. It’s a beautiful sight.”
Debbie’s hoping this year’s band – the Louisville Crashers – will draw a larger-than-average crowd to the party. Usually, the party draws around 500. The venue, Kingfish Restaurant, located on riverfront in Jeffersonville, will be expanded to hold up to 800.
“We’d love to raise 20 to 21 thousand this year,” says Debbie. “It’s a landmark year.”